CALENDAR OF COMPOSITION
A first version of Canto VI was in all probability drafted during Pound’s trip to Southern France with his wife Dorothy in the summer of 1919. The first news of its completion is in a letter to his father sent on 22 November of that year. Canto VI was part of a group, together with cantos V and VII: Pound wanted this triad to be published as a whole, wherever possible. He sent it by December to Liveright and in March 1920 to The Dial, together with canto IV. The editors of The Dial published IV in June 1920, but waited for a whole year before publishing the next three. Cantos V-VII appeared in the August 1921 issue of the Dial under the title Three Cantos. Liveright’s volume, Poems 1918-1921, was published in December.
This first version of canto VI is significant because it is here that Pound introduces excerpts from historical letters for the first time, antedating the Malatesta Cantos by three years. The canto is also not as condensed, which throws considerable light on obscure passages and Pound’s reliance on sources in the poem as we now have it.
Canto VI was published with very few layout modifications in A Draft of XVI Cantos, in 1925.
In A Draft of XXX Cantos, (Paris: Hours Press 1930), a new, significantly shorter version of Canto VI replaced the old. Instead of insisting on the political machinations of the Plantagenets and the Capetians, their permanent wars and flimsy treaties, Pound shifts the weight of the poem from war to love, following the poetry of the troubadours and their female patrons, focusing on Eleanor d’Aquitaine and Cunizza da Romano. Pound gives examples, echoes, and pastiches of troubadour poetry from its beginnings in Guillaume de Poitiers (Eleanor’s grandfather) to Bernart de Ventadour (her contemporary), with echoes from Bertran de Born and Arnaut Daniel (active at the time of Eleanor’s sons, Henry and Richard) to Sordello, an Italian poet active in the first half of the 13th century who wrote in Provençal but who can be considered transitional from the troubadours in the South of France to the Italian dolce stil nuovo. This important reworking, which ended up by giving us two cantos VI, is probably due to Pound’s readings on the Da Romano family and his re-editing of The Spirit of Romance around 1927-1929.
The poem annotated in The Cantos Project is the final, second version of this canto. For the first version, please check “Cantos in periodicals” here.
Correspondence by Ezra Pound: (c) Mary de Rachewiltz and the Estate of Omar S. Pound. Reproduced by permission.
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
Pearlman, Daniel. The Barb of Time. On the Unity of Ezra Pound’s Cantos. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1969.
Isabel Weston Pound.
Pound, Ezra. The Letters of Ezra Pound 1907-1941. Ed. D.D. Paige. London: Faber, 1951.
Pound, Ezra. Ezra Pound To His Parents: Letters 1895-1929. Eds. Mary de Rachewiltz, A David Moody and Joanna Moody. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010.
Pound, Ezra. The Selected Letters of Ezra Pound to John Quinn: 1915-1924. Ed. Timothy Materer. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1991.
Pound, Ezra. Pound, Thayer, Watson, & The Dial. A Story in Letters. Ed. W. Sutton. UP of Florida, 1994.
Pound. Ezra. The Selected Letters of Ezra Pound 1907-1941. Ed. D.D. Paige. New York: New Directions, 1971.
To Homer Pound, 22 November 1919
[...] As Liveright never answers a letter. Please phone that I have three new cantos done. THUS there is enough matter for American edition of poems, as follows.
Homage to Propertius
Cantos IV, V, and VI (possibly VI and VII, by the time matter is settled). Same size vol as English Q.P.A.
Liveright’s agent wrote asking if they could import Q.P.A., you understand that the first three cantos are in Knopf’s Lustra, therefore the English sheets of Q.P.A. can not be sold in America.
Note: Q.P.A. - Quia Pauper Amavi [“I was poor when I loved”] - volume of poems published by the Egoist Press in 1919.
To John Quinn, 24 November 1919
I have finished Canto VI.; W.L. much distressed by my preoccupation of the XIIth century; which is I admit very unfortunate from point of view of immediate impact on general public. W.L. does not however offer a better alternative. I cant knock off a super Madame Bovary in pentameter in a fortnight. Art is not only long but bloody bloody slow.
Proofs not there YET, but that is Boni Liveright’s affair not mine. Fleishman writes that they want my next USA vol. of poems. It will be the same as Q[uia]. P[auper]. A[mavi]. with new Cantos for old.
To Homer Pound, 13 December 1919
[...] Have done cantos 5, 6, and 7, each more incomprehensible than the one preceding it; dont know what’s to be done about it. Liveright says he is ready to bring out vol. of poems. Shall put Propertius first and follow by ‘Langue d’oc’ and Cantos IV to VII, book about the same size as Q.P.A.
Note: The volume produced by Liveright is Poems 1918-21 and was published in 1921.
To Scofield Thayer, 24 March, 1920
L/TW 18; BT 301
Queery, would you have printed Fenollosa’s essay on The Chinese Written Character? Do you want serious contributions to thought... or merely second hand jaw? Mr. Quinn implies you want my verse rather than my prose. I [am] send[ing] [sep. cover] four cantos. Canto IV is o.k. by itself, Cantos V.VI.VII shd. appear together as the Lorenzacchio [sic] Medici begins in V. and ends the VII.
I shouldn’t insist on their being printed all together, but it wd. be better. It wd. also affirm my connection with the magazine, as I shd. not print this long poem in any paper which I was not backing. There are not likely to be more than two cantos each year, the rest of my stuff wd. be shorter poems (or prose if wanted).
To Homer Pound, 24 April, 1920
Am sending you ‘Mauberley’, my new poems, advance sheets. I dont want you to show it to people YET.
I want the Dial to print cantos IV-VII, they probably want something of mine, and wd. certainly prefer short poems to the cantos. Therefore I want them to remain in ingornace [sic] of the fact that there are any short poems, until the cantos have had a full chance.
If they saw the short poems first, they wd. probably want to print them instead of cantos. It wd. get my name into the Magazine, for less money, and in more convenient way. Therefore please lie low about ‘Mauberly’ until you hear from me.
From Scofield Thayer, 30 April 1920
Thank you for the verses. Canto IV is now in the press and will appear in our June issue. Cantos V, VI, and VII we are returning to you.
From Scofield Thayer, 21 May 1920
It seems wise that I should speak to you rather frankly of our present difficulties in publishing THE DIAL. Of course it is most important to keep up an appearance of prosperity before the world and therefore what I am about to say is said in all confidence. Although you are in a position to have some conception of conditions over here, I really believe the public’s attitude toward our too harmless journal would astonish you. It certainly has astonished Watson and myself. We are attacked most violently on every occasion, in the press and by mail and in personal conversation, for publishing verse that does not rhyme and pictures that are not lifelike. For some reason that is quite impossible of analysis, to publish a reproduction of a painting by Cezanne is discovered to be an attack, the more terrible because in[sid]ious, upon the very heart of patriotism, Christianity, and morality in general. THE DIAL has been characterized in a letter written by a gentleman of some position in artistic circles hereabouts as a dastardly attack upon “all that the good and wise of every generation have lived and died for.” You get the authentic note, hey? I myself was recently characterized at a dinner dance as a degenerate. We should never have thought of undertaking this job had we anticipated one-tenth of the difficulties we have encountered. Newsstands even refuse to carry THE DIAL and only day before yesterday the American News Company, after months of deliberation, decided that they could not undertake to circulate our paper. We have, however, gone so far in this matter that we have decided to stick it out at any rate a few months more before throwing up the sponge. Disagreeable as it is to mention this fact in order to give you some idea of what we are up against, I feel it necessary to state that Mr Watson and myself have, since we took over control of the papper the later part of  November, expended upon it about sixty thousand dollars. It is going to cost us another forty to finish up the current year.
You are inducted into all these troubles to explain why three cantos of your very distinguished poem were recently returned to you. We sent them back merely because after infinite hesitations and regrets we decided that we could not accept, conditions being such as they are, so much verse of an unconventional quality. I don’t blame you a bit if you are very put out and even if you are now. I really think, however, that had you been here and a member of the editorial board, you would have been the first to wish to withdraw the manuscript in question, at least for the time being. The hostility to us has however, within the last week become so acute that it has become a question either of excluding all the things about which we care most, or of immediately stopping publication, or of printing anything unconventional–either verse, prose, or pictures–in a department of the magazine devoted entirely to what we shall call “Modern Forms.” This department will occupy the middle of the magazine; in other words, the most dignified position. I hope you will not feel that this is too undignified. It is the last concession we shall make to the public. Now that we have this department we are very sorry indeed that we have returned your three cantos. Will you let us have them back? If so do write and tell me what you think of our arrangement. This department entitled “Modern Forms” will first appear in the July issue, the June issue being already printed.
What a world!
With many apologies for your country and mine.
To Scofield Thayer, 7 June 1920, Sirmione
(yours of May 21st to hand)
I will send you back the cantos [5-7] from Paris, if you think they won’t wreck the paper.
To IWP, 30 Sept 1920
[…] Sent mss. of new vol. poems to Liveright two days ago. Also mss. of Cantos V-VII to dad.
To John Quinn, 9 October 1920
C. re Liveright. I have sent the rest of copy for
It contains the Imperium Romanum (Propertius)
The Middle Ages (Provence)
And cantos IV-VII,
It is all I have done since 1916, and my most important book, I at any rate think Canto VII the best thing I have done;
If America won’t have it, then Tant Pisssss as the French say. I have my answer, and it means twenty more years of Europe, perhaps permanent stay here.
[…] At any rate the three portraits, falling into a Trois Contes scheme, plus the Cantos, which come out of the middle of me and are not a mask, are what I have to say, and the first formed book of poem[s] I have made. Lustra being, I admit, simpler and more understandable.
To Homer Pound, 30 July 1921
[…] By the time you get this Cantos shd. have appeared in Dial. (cantos V-VII)
To Felix E. Schelling, 8 July 1922
SL 180, L 247
[…] Perhaps as the poem goes on I shall be able to make various things clearer. Having the crust to attempt a poem in 100 or 120 cantos long after all mankind has been commanded never again to attempt a poem of any length, I have to stagger as I can.
The first 11 cantos are preparation of the palette. I have to get down all the colours or elements I want for the poem. Some perhaps too engmatically and abbreviatedly. I hope, heaven help me, to bring them into some sort of design and architecture later.
To Dorothy Pound, Tuesday [7 August 1923]
Lilly Library, Pound mss. III, Box 1
Wrote to Agnes the other day, but you neednt bother about those items. Unless she finds the little book about Henry Plantagenet, and Louis VII, one that I had in Thoulllouzhe.
From Dorothy Pound, 8 August 1923
Lilly Library, Pound mss. III, Box 1
Dearest Ming, rescued Ph August book & Divus’ Odysseea from flat when I (at last) saw Bedford yesterday.
1927 - 1929
To Dorothy Pound, 12 June 1927, Venice
Lilly, Library, Ezra Pound Mss. The Dorothy Pound Correspondence
Lot of stuff in Querini - a trecento latin play that Dazzi has translated from latin wd probl excite W.B. [Yeats] unduly – lot of background for Browning Sordello etc.
Note: A sum of events starting in June 1927, when Pound was in Venice doing research for canto XXVI, suggests the nature of the changes in canto VI, which would be published in a comprehensive revision in A Draft of XXX Cantos in 1930: the addition of the lines about Cunizza da Romano and her freeing the slaves of her brothers, Ezzelino and Alberico.
In June 1927, as the letter to Dorothy above attests, Pound’s friend Manlio Dazzi, who was now librarian at the Querini Stampalia in Venice, gave the poet a copy of his translation into Italian of Albertino Mussato’s play Ecerinis (written in Latin, 1314) (Casella 79).
Around this date, references to “Giovan Battista Verci’s Storia della Marca Trivigina in ten volumes (1786-91) and the Storia degli Eccelini in two volumes, followed by the third volume, the collection of official documents known as Codice Diplomatico Ecceliniano (1179)” show up in Pound’s Notebooks, nos. 9 and 12 (Casella 77-78).
Pound revises the Spirit of Romance for the 1929 edition and adds notes and intratextual comments to his 1910 text. Among them, we find a note on Mussato and Dazzi’s translation (SR 132). A reference to Mussato appears also in “How to Read” (1929, in LE 29).
One of the notes to SR registers Pound’s astonishment at the modernity of William IX’s poetry and may well be the seed that redirected the canto from a chronicle of the Plantagenets’ wars presented in contrast with the generous spirit of Bernard de Ventadour, to a very selective history of troubadour poetry and its passage into Italy in Sordello’s time. Pound emphasizes the quality of poetry to be a resister to power, an affirmation of freedom, love, generosity, and compassion against war, greed, imprisonment and abuse.
Dazzi and Pound share the editing of Cavalcanti’s Rime. The volume is dedicated to Dazzi and the dedication runs: “A /Manlio Dazzi che ha mangiato ‘Ai Dodici Apostoli’/ e con me diviso le fatiche di quest’ edizione/ (1928-31)” (Casella 79). Cunizza's manumission act happened in 1265 in Guido Cavalcanti’s house, another luminous detail that impressed Pound.
Casella observes that Pound knew about Sordello, Cunizza, and Ezzelino from his early literary readings of Browning and Dante at the beginning of the century. But only through his more historiographical perusal of Mussato, Verci, and possibly Rolandino at the end of the 1920s did Cunizza become a figure and symbol in the Cantos. Mussato’s play left a deep impression on Pound, witness his references of 1929 in his critical prose and his later introduction of Ezzelino in Canto 72. While Mussato concentrated on Cunizza’s brothers, their cruelty and their punishment, Cunizza’s manumission act in the house of Cavalcanti, which Pound found in Verci, appeared all the more miraculous and would lead to her deification as a symbol of freedom, humaneness and mercy in Pound’s later canon.